The result neither wanted

Hull custodian Eldin Jakupovic making one of his many saves, this time from Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, during their FA Cup fifth-round clash at the Emirates Stadium.
Hull custodian Eldin Jakupovic making one of his many saves, this time from Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez, during their FA Cup fifth-round clash at the Emirates Stadium.PHOTO: ACTION IMAGES

Goalie keeps Gunners at bay in stalemate but Arsenal, Hull both have loftier priorities

FA CUP
Arsenal 0 Hull City 0

LONDON • It arguably would have been easier to find a goal in this match than find a reasonable window in a bloated fixture calendar to fit in a replay.

Arsenal travel to Manchester United and Tottenham, have a home game against Swansea and the small matter of a Champions League rendezvous against Barcelona before the replay in three weeks' time.

Hull have four Championship games to attend to themselves over the same period.

Little wonder when Arsene Wenger and Steve Bruce shook hands at the end of yesterday's 0-0 FA Cup fifth-round draw at the Emirates Stadium they smiled at each other wryly.

FA Cup holders Arsenal were left frustrated in their efforts to warm up for Tuesday's Champions League meeting with Barcelona with a win.

WE WEREN'T SHARP ENOUGH

Hull defended very well. We were not incisive or accurate enough in our passing in the final third... The Hull goalkeeper was outstanding and kept them in the game.

ARSENE WENGER, Arsenal manager, on the second-tier visitors' dogged backline.

An outstanding display by Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic meant Steve Bruce's under-strength side retain hope of avenging their 2014 FA Cup final defeat by Arsenal and so preventing Wenger's side from becoming the first team to win the competition three years in succession since the 1880s.

The draw also ensured the strength of Wenger's belief that replays are an integral part of the FA Cup will be tested just days after he spoke out in support of such games.

"No, not especially good news but Hull defended very well," the Frenchman told BT Sport when asked about a replay. "We were not incisive or accurate enough in our passing in the final third. If we have no injuries, we can cope with the fixtures.

"I think FA Cup replays are a (peculiarity) of the English rules and you have to respect that. The Hull goalkeeper was outstanding and kept them in the game."

In truth, neither manager wanted the burden of an extra game at this stage of the season, with Arsenal pushing for the Premier League title and Hull top of England's second-tier Championship.

But Arsenal, who also beat Hull in the third round of last season's FA Cup, paid the price for their failure to turn territorial dominance into goals.

The feeling that the priority for both clubs lay elsewhere was confirmed by the two line-ups. With Barcelona due to visit, Wenger made nine changes to the side that started last weekend's Premier League meeting with Leicester City. Bruce went even further, making 10 changes to his side.

Wenger's decision to ring the changes for his 100th FA Cup tie meant Danny Welbeck made his first Arsenal start in 308 days, having marked his first-team return with the last-minute goal that brought victory over Leicester.

A smart turn and cross by England team-mate Theo Walcott presented Welbeck with the chance to direct a 13th-minute header on goal that was well saved by Jakupovic.

Hull's makeshift line-up struggled to make any impression during the early stages. However, they grew into the game with the pace of Adama Diomande alongside Nick Powell, the Manchester United midfielder signed on loan last month, beginning to cause the home side problems.

When Arsenal did assert themselves, Jakupovic was in excellent form, saving well from Walcott with his legs in the 28th minute. And the Switzerland 'keeper produced an even better save to deny Welbeck just after the hour when he adjusted his dive to save one-handed after the Arsenal forward had produced a powerful, curling shot from the edge of the area.

Wenger's growing frustration - and his desire to avoid a replay - was reflected in the manager's decision to introduce Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez midway through the second half.

But that was not enough to settle the tie in the holders' favour, with Jakupovic producing another excellent save in added time to keep Hull's hopes alive.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2016, with the headline 'THE RESULT NEITHER WANTED'. Print Edition | Subscribe